Monday, January 29, 2018

John 15 Commentary: The result of an ignorant status update I saw in my Facebook Feed.

I am amazed at the biblical ignorance that is out in cyber space. Earlier today, I was reading my Facebook feed, and ran across a status that claimed that John 15:1-11 was irrefutable proof that eternal security of the believer was not true. This could not be further from the truth. It comes from the mistaken idea that we can read the scripture as if it were written directly to us without understanding any of the grammatical and historical context.

John 15 is not written about eternal security or the lack thereof for that matter. While the grammatical context is important in any passage of scripture, the historical context is even so much more important. Reading without taking into consideration the intended audience is a horrible mistake that makes much of the current interpretation totally irrelevant. It is with this in mind that I do this commentary on the fifteenth chapter of John's gospel.

Let me take a minute to lay out the historical context of this passage. First, let's identify the intended audience and the circumstances they found themselves in. Jesus was a Jew, born under the Mosaic Covenant, ministering exclusively to Jews who were practicing the Mosaic Covenant. It was written before the cross event so the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus had not yet taken place. God had sent first, John the Baptist, the last strictly Jewish Prophet to make the way for the Prophet, Priest and King, Jesus the Messiah (Christ.) As John explains earlier in this work, He, Jesus, came unto his own and His own did not receive him. Thus, the message of this gospel is spoken directly to Jews under the Old Covenant before the installation of the New Covenant. This is a most important distinction. For the remainder of this commentary I will make the scripture portion blue text that is in italics so that it can be easily distinguished from my commentary. The version of the scripture used is the CSB, the Christian Standard Bible, which is an offshoot of the Holman Christian Standard Bible. There are no perfect translations including the KJV as they all have their shortcomings. This one however is a good one and is easier to understand.

John 15:1-27 CSB  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener." Let's first examine Jesus reason for this statement.  Isaiah chapter five starts out by speaking of the Lord's vineyard. In Isaiah 5:7 it is written that the men of Judah are his pleasant plant. In essence, the Jews in the first century were teaching that they were the Lord's vine. Jesus is correcting this by saying that He, as the promised seed of Abraham (Gal 3) was in fact the true vine.

(2)  "Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit."  So then, it is important to realize that God was looking for the fruit of faith from Israel. He wanted them to believe and receive the Messiah, His Son, that He had sent them. There are many references in the New Testament to plants not producing the fruit they were meant to produce. Look at the fig tree in Mark 11:13. Jesus cursed the tree for not having figs and the scripture tells us that it was not the season for figs. Have you never wondered why the tree was withered when it was not even fig season? It was a metaphor for the nation Israel. It was not the season for Israel to accept their Messiah. Paul explains in Romans chapters nine, ten, and eleven that Israel was hardened so that the Gentiles could be brought into the kingdom. He likewise assures in the same parenthetical passage that ALL Israel will be saved.

(3)  "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you."  When Jesus says you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you He is assuring them that they have already been pruned. This is a word of assurance so that they will not have to wonder about their fate. It was not just the word that he had spoken. It was what they did with it by faith. One cannot fool Jesus, he knew their hearts and when he assured them, they can rest assured

(4)  "Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me." Jesus is telling them of a symbiotic relationship. They are in Him and He is in them. The fruition of Him being in them will come shortly after the resurrection. He is not saying remain in me as an instruction for fear that they will not remain in Him. Rather it is a way of explaining how they will continue in Him in His absence. Remaining in Him is continuing to believe the gospel. Paul said it this way in Col 2:6, they were to walk in Christ the same way that they received Him. They received Him by faith and they need to continue in Him by faith. The writer of Hebrews puts it another way with the same meaning.  Heb 10:35  "Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward." Finally along this point we find that Paul explains it this way in Romans. Rom 14:4  "Who are you to judge another’s household servant? Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And he will stand, because the Lord is able to make him stand." This is all very assuring, telling them that they do not have to worry God will keep them abiding in the vine. This is the over-arching message of the New Testament.

(5)  "I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.  (6)  If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned." This is likely the verse that the person uses to prove that salvation can be lost or given away. This does not teach that those of verse 3 can lose what they have gained. This is too explain that there are many who have followed Him, said they believed, but will not stick with Him through the crucifixion and resurrection. Furthermore, as I have proved many times over in this blog, the fire referred to here is Gehenna which is a metaphor for the fire and brimstone that will be rained on those who did not believe by Rome in 70CE. Once again, lets look at the intended audience. It was first century believers who were about to undergo the great trial of having the one they had hoped in and believed in crucified by the ruling Jewish Religious Leaders at the hands of the Roman government. It was not written to some distant Gentile Christian thousands of years down the road. It was case and occasion specific. Most all of the messages of scripture are case and occasion specific.Now, can we today benefit from what is written here? Of course! But certainly not in extrapolating a principle that one can lose their salvation. That is absurd and does grammatical violence to the original message.

(7)  "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.  (8)  My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples." Here again we see the words remain in me. The admonition to remain in Him is to continue to believe in Him even though he is crucified. Part of remaining in Him is allowing what He has said to remain. How does one prove that they are his disciples? This is answered in John 13. In John 13:35 Jesus says that people will know that they are disciples of His if they love one another. Love proves that one is a disciple of Jesus so then, the fruit that is produced is love. It is the presence of the fruit of love that will bring glory to the Father. Now while this was spoken by Jesus before the resurrection, He was referring to what would happen after the resurrection. However, He is not telling them the way it will operate at this time. He will do that in verse 26.

(9)  “As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love.  (10)  If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  (11)  “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.  (12)  “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you." Here Jesus is telling them what it means to obey his commands. Paul tells us that all of the commandments are rolled up in loving the other. Also, John in his first epistle spells it out exactly. He makes certain that his audience knows exactly what Jesus commands are. 1Jn 3:21-23  "Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence before God  (22)  and receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commands and do what is pleasing in his sight.  (23)  Now this is his command: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as he commanded us." First, we have Jesus telling them about the commandment to love one another. Paul agrees with that as I mentioned above and now John is telling those of his community that the commands are two. 1) Believe in the name of Jesus and 2) love one another. There is a precise operation to the ability to love and I will take that up a little later in this. For now, I'll say that there is a supernatural catalyst that causes the love and it is done FOR the one believing the gospel.

(13)  "No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.  (14)  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  (15)  I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father." It is important to realize that all of this is directly related to remaining in the vine. It is all directly related to the assurance that there is a perseverance of the saints that is promised by God through Christ, and achieved for the believer supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. One cannot lose that. It is sure. He is speaking to those who knew Him and BELIEVED He came from God. You can find that out by carefully reading not only this passage, but John chapter 16 as well. Remaining in Him is to continue to believe that He came from God as the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world. You will see as you read on that this ability to remain in the vine is brought about by the Holy Spirit. Actually, it is the fact that He laid down His life for them that will be the catalyst that creates the supernatural love that proves discipleship. 

(16)  "You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you." This verse of the passage proves that they CANNOT lose their salvation. They did not choose Him, He chose them. Not only that, but he appointed them to produce the fruit of love, and further to the point, the fruit would remain as well. The saint, who truly believes in God's provision in Christ, believes the death burial and resurrection was efficacious for them, believes that God was in Christ NOT imputing sin, but instead imputing Christ's righteousness as a free gift.... that saint, who is resting in, clinging too, and relying on Jesus will NEVER be allowed to fall away. 

(17)  “This is what I command you: Love one another.  (18)  “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you.  (19)  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you." Here again we see Jesus telling them that the world, and here he means the religious Jewish world, the Pharisaic world, would hate them. It is interesting that in the current evangelical scene today, modern day Pharisees, seem to hate the one who believes in God's grace. People are always looking for a performance standard that the saint needs to achieve to be saved. It is so sad that it makes me sick to death almost. In the beginning of John 16 which is a continuation of this theme he says that they will be put out of the synagogues and those who kill them will think they are doing a service to God. It is interesting to me that so many that today, try to kill the spirit of grace think they are doing a service to God.   

(20)  "Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.  (21)  But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me." Contrary to proving that a saint can lose salvation, this passage along with chapter 16 & 17 is written to assure that a SAINT cannot lose salvation. Those who do not remain were never a chosen saint in the first place. 

(22)  "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now they have no excuse for their sin." Here again is proof positive that Jesus is referring to those religious Jews that did not really believe that he was the Messiah." Had he not come, they would still be fine in their religiousity. They would be practicing the Law and doing Temple sacrifices and everything would be hunky-dory for them but unfortunately for them, He came and they DID NOT believe. Not really. They were so comfortable in their religious practice that they did not want to trust in a person. They were unable to accept the fact that He came to show them a better way. They were not willing to accept a better covenant based on better promises. This is where historical context is so very important. Remember I mentioned that at the beginning of this commentary. In order to understand what is written one has to understand the mind set of the intended audience. The intended audience was those who believed that God was doing a new thing among them.  Yes, some of the Jews would believe and most would not but those who believed were NOT in danger of losing their salvation. They could not!

(23)  "The one who hates me also hates my Father.  (24)  If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.  (25)  But this happened so that the statement written in their law might be fulfilled: They hated me for no reason." They had seen the miracles first hand and still did not believe. Can you imagine that? ... seeing the blind given sight, the lame able to walk, the dead being brought back to life. This is the context for those who would be thrown in the fire. The fire would be the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the city and the temple. The truth of this passage is that those people referred to in verses 6 & 7 were never believers. They were not saved from the beginning.

(26)  “When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me.  (27)  You also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning." Here is the final assurance of this chapter that the saints addressed will persevere. They will testify of Him because they were with Him and believed in Him from the very beginning. There is a lot to be said about how the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the Spirit of Truth actually enables the saint to supernaturally love. There is not enough of that today as I fear that too few people really truly understand and believe the gospel.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Redemptive Decrees: Messages that cannot be altered or they become simply untrue!

Romans 10:8-10 ESV "But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); (9) because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (10) For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

The Christian message is compromised. It is little wonder that there are so few people who actually believe the gospel. The world changing power of the gospel depends on people understanding the gospel correctly, and believing it. Current evangelical doctrine gets people close to a true gospel understanding, but what is the tired cliche? "Close but no cigar!" In the above passage, Paul states that the word of faith, (gospel) that they proclaim/preach is simply... confess with the mouth and believe with the heart. Notice what I have emboldened in the underline passage... you WILL be saved! There are NO other conditions!

This is just one of many redemptive decrees that if found conditional are merely untrue. There is a reason for this. The redemptive decrees have precedent. They are the driving force of the gospel. They are the catalyst for all that God has done in Christ. They are the engine that drives transformation. When one takes a redemptive view of scripture rather than a legal constitutional view, then the redemptive decrees promote peace with God and love for God.

The Old Covenant, also known as the Mosaic Covenant, was indeed a legal constitutional covenant. However, it was made null by Israel. Jeremiah makes it very clear: Jeremiah 31:32 ESV "not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD." The New Covenant is a covenant similar to the one that God made with Abraham. God alone made that covenant with Abraham and it was unconditional. You can find an account of that covenant in Genesis Chapter 15. Abraham made no promises in the covenant, it simply says in Genesis 15:6, that Abraham believed the Lord and it was counted to him as righteousness.

Now Paul tells us that the promised seed of Abraham was not many seeds, as of the entirety of the Children of Israel, but that it was but one seed (Galatians chapter 3.) That Seed was Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Abraham was but a type of the Seed. A type showing faith in God. Jesus, the Seed had perfect faith in the Father. His perfect faith, and him being the Seed of Abraham, sealed once and for all the covenant God made with Abraham.

The concept that has evangelical doctrine in error is continuing a legal constitutional reading of scripture. With a legal constitutional reading all of the scripture has equal weight. This is what allows it to seem that the redemptive decrees have various conditions and limitations attached to them. This makes doctrine/dogma appear to be schizophrenic. It keeps the saint in fear and on a working contract of sorts with God. It was never meant to be that way under the New Covenant. The New Covenant is not a conditional covenant based upon performance.

More specifically, it is the unconditional basis of the New Covenant that gives it the supernatural power to transform the lives of the believer. However, in order for people to be truly transformed, it takes groups of people actually believing the good news. In this case, the aspect of the good news that must be believed is the lack of conditions with the New Covenant. Jesus perfect faith made us right with the Father once for all! That is a further example of a redemptive decree. Hebrews 10:14-17 HCSB "For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. (15) The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. For after He says: (16) This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws on their hearts and write them on their minds, (17) He adds: I will never again remember their sins and their lawless acts." This forms the foundation of the transforming power of the gospel. These are again, unconditional redemptive decrees and IF there are conditions attached they merely become untrue. However, if believed, they produce real love for God that is the source of transformation.

That is why it is so sad that so many pastors and evangelical leaders continue to insist on the lie that there are conditions to the redemptive work of Jesus. They really do stop the effectual aspect of the gospel. Most do it in ignorance and fear, but in spite of their motivation the result is nevertheless just as destructive. I wish these leaders would repent and teach the truth. The false gospel that stops short of unconditional was incorporated to control people. It was installed to give power to leaders, mostly for gaining wealth, but the result is cult-like control. The gross error of current evangelical doctrine is made obvious with most of the posts on this blog. It is time for a change.

If the saints actually really were taught a redemptive reading of scripture. If they rightly rejected the legal constitutional reading of scripture. Then, the many pages of reasonable service instructions could be read, viewed, and allowed to inform people on what to strive for in view of their status of righteousness by Christ. They could have their proper place in helping the saint understand what loving God looks like in practice. Shame on those that continue to lead and reinforce the error in ignorance. But many are not ignorant. They know the truth of the gospel and are just afraid they will lose control over the flock.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Spirit of Christ changed the spiritual atmosphere: Part 1

1 Peter 1:9-12 HCSB because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (10) Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that would come to you searched and carefully investigated. (11) They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow. (12) It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you. These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Angels desire to look into these things.

This is an interesting passage of scripture. Prior to the advent of Jesus of Nazareth, the Prophets alone had the SPIRIT of Christ. It was with limited illumination to say the least. When Jesus walked and talked among humanity, he alone had that Holy Spirit. However, he told his followers that it was to their advantage that he went to the Father, because when that happened, He would then send the Spirit, i.e., the Spirit of Christ to dwell in them. Let's delve into the text a little to see what was being said and to whom.

The first interesting thing that I see is this. The audience that Peter was addressing, believers in the first century, scattered out through the diaspora, were expecting a literal, physical, national salvation. However, Peter makes it clear that it is the salvation of their soul. In so doing he is referring to the breath, essence of the human person, i.e., the human's spirit. It is separate from pneuma which is the Spirit of Christ. In the latter, pheuma is used as both the Spirit of Christ and God synonymously. Somehow, the Spirit of Christ combines with the soul/human spirit to bring about salvation. It was also tied up in the relationship between the messianic sufferings and glory.

Verse 12 makes clear who the intended, addressed audience was. It was the original readers of the epistle. All of the prophets prophesied to serve them. According to verse 12, it was also announced to them by those who preached the gospel. Paul states that the gospel was a mystery in his epistles, and here, Peter tells them that the angels in heaven did not know about this salvation of the soul, and were interested in looking into it and finding out about it. The Spirit of Christ was the instrument to help bring about this salvation.

I think it is worthwhile to look into how the Spirit of Christ, the pneuma, interacts with the spirit of man the psuche. The New Testament scripture clearly teaches that the Spirit of Christ acts in conjunction with the gospel message to affect the human spirit, the soul. Here is how it works practically. When one hears the gospel of grace, i.e., that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not imputing their sin to them, but rather, imputing the righteousness of Christ to them so that they would be completely righteous in His sight, the Holy Spirit convinces that the gospel message is in fact true, thereby creating peace with God the Father. In turn, peace with God the Father, creates supernatural love for the Father while one is hearing this gospel message, and believing it through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. This genuine love for God, based upon grace alone, affects the human soul/spirit which in turn causes the person to want to please God. So, as Paul said, it is the grace of God that leads to repentance.

You can begin to see the necessity of hearing the gospel often. The more one hears the gospel message, the more the Spirit of Christ, the pneuma, interacts with the human spirit, the psuche to act as a transforming influence. This is precisely why one is so uplifted by hearing the gospel message. It is also the reason that Paul stated that he was determined to do nothing except preach the gospel to the Corinthians. I am certain that he was determined to do nothing except preach the gospel wherever he was, but I mention the Corinthians because that was the community he revealed it too and was addressing at the time.

So, why is the gospel so important? We can look to Paul again to explain it. He explains it in Romans chapter 7. The Law of God is good and holy. It prescribes righteousness. However, it cannot produce righteousness in the psuche/soul. It is only through the pneuma/Holy Spirit combined with the hearing of the gospel that righteousness can be produced in humanity. First let me right off put to bed an error that I have heard from holiness/Pentecostal preachers. They say that Paul is describing the old man, before salvation in Romans 7. That is totally impossible. The reason is that Paul says that he delights in the Law in his inner man. Without the pneuma and the gospel, one has no inner-man with which to delight in the Law. Therefore, Paul is addressing believers in Romans chapter 7. The bottom line of that passage is that without the gospel of grace, one cannot do law righteousness. "The good I long to do, I simply cannot do, and that which I really do not want to do, I do all to readily. This is only true however when my focus is on being righteous by virtue of Law obedience.

It cannot be clearer that the Spirit of Christ, in conjunction with the gospel message is absolutely essential in our moving toward practical righteousness as individuals. So this begs the question' why is there so much insistence on Law preaching and obedience in evangelical Christianity? The only possible answer is misunderstanding and perhaps outright ignorance of the operation of the transformation process. Further to the point, a misunderstanding and perhaps outright ignorance of of the necessity of rehearsing and hearing the gospel message over, and over, and over, and over. Get this point... the seasoned saint needs the gospel as much as the unconverted sinner! Let me repeat myself... the seasoned saint needs the gospel as much as the unconverted sinner.

This post is getting lengthy so I will end here but I want to briefly add that the Spirit of Christ, after the resurrection affected the entire spiritual atmosphere, and is progressively moving even to this very day. It is bringing an age enduring, age changing dynamic today that will radically transform the future. It will catch on more and more and will manifest itself in ways not formerly known or accepted.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Majoring in Minor Things

Not too long ago I heard a sermon where a preacher said that the Lord had recently told him that the saints were majoring in minors. What he was speaking about was they were too concerned about how people dressed and appeared. Yet, this message spoke to me on a different level. Oh, I am not hung up on how people dress when they go to church. Heck, given the current state of evangelical doctrine and the error that is ever present, I am not hung up on people going to church.

So back to majoring in minors... This is at the crux of what is wrong with evangelical doctrine these days. Jesus focus was redemptive. This is obvious from John 5:39-40 & Luke 24:27, 43-45. So then, the mandate for the church as I see it is to major/focus on the gospel and Jesus. That is where all the emphasis should be placed. Methods of baptism and other creed concerns are far less important.

This is why I think that 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 is so vital in our understanding of the gospel, and in reality, the best statement of the gospel. The passage of this letter from 3:1 through 5:21 is important in understanding what the "majors" are. Paul differentiates between the new covenant and the old covenant in this passage. He starts out by calling the Old Covenant the ministry of death, and conversely gets on to the New Covenant being the ministry of the Spirit and life.  He points out in chapter 4 that the New Covenant provides something better and unique. The ministry of life is housed in earthen jars as Paul poetically points out that though we are human and flesh, Christ and His ministry is alive within us.

The "major" is not placed on the letter of the law. It is not placed in a read and do context. It is not necessitated by a legal constitutional reading of scripture. That was Old Covenant. That was wrapped in the fact that if one obeyed the legal requirements there were blessings, and if one was not obedient there was curses. We find out that Christ took on the curse/curses of the law for us. Since the Gentile was never really under the law, this was more for the Jew, but still is a benefit to the Gentile. Why? So that the promises of Deuteronomy 28 could be "yes and amen" for all, both Jew and Gentile. In essence, both Jew and Gentile can be blessed in the city and in the field, blessed coming and going. The question is not are we blessed. The question is do we believe we are blessed?

Therefore the major idea is Christ and the gospel. Yet, it seems that it is so often neglected in favor of explaining to people how they can improve morally. People are scolded and shamed about their lack of being able to measure up to the law. It would be laughable if it was not so brutally true. So you ask, why was there so much ink in the New Testament about the law and obedience? The answer is quite simple. It was before the destruction of the temple when God made his choice in who his real children were. The Jews still had the old covenant in force. Once the temple was destroyed, there was practically no Old Covenant. There was no means of atonement. The reason was that the atonement of Christ was a once for all act.

Certainly the law can inform us in what love looks like. I am not railing against the law to show us the heart of God, and how we should treat our fellow humanity. I am arguing that it is wrong to allow the law to determine our righteousness. The thing in the new covenant that determines our righteousness, our right standing before God is faith in Christ and God's grace.  Further, real true faith in the grace and love of God will produce within us, supernaturally, a love for God that will translate into us being more loving and actually more obedient,. It is strictly a matter of focus.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Love Letter to the Broken Hearted: Part 3 Humble yourself as a child

Matthew 18:3 NASB and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew chapter eighteen has a valuable lesson for us if we will look at it with fresh eyes. It is important for me to emphasize fresh eyes. Fresh eyes means in this case with a shift in paradigms. It is the shift that Jesus himself taught, and likewise the one that his first century followers who wrote the New Testament writings taught. What was the shift you ask? Well, according to John 5:39-40 it was a shift to a redemptive purpose for the scripture. You can also find it backed up in Luke 24:27 & 43-45. With this in mind... let's take a look at Matthew 18:3 in its wider context. Jesus disciples asked him a question. Here is the passage Matthew 18:1-6 NASB "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (2) And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, (3) and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (4) "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (5) "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; (6) but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."

If one has a paradigm that demands a legal constitutional reading of scripture the above words of Jesus could be very scary. However, with an understanding of first century Judaism, which would allow one to understand His words as his disciples would it takes on a significantly different meaning. Notice that Jesus called a child to Himself and set "him" before them. So, it was not just any child it was a male child. So what you ask? Well, in first century Judaism it was important for young boys to go to Torah school. In fact, they attended until the age of twelve. It was no doubt near a Torah school that Jesus was speaking with his disciples. They often met outside because the weather warranted it. So then, it is in answer to the question who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven that he calls this young boy to him. One can imagine that this was a young student. One who had not studied long. 

The point Jesus was making to his disciples was that they are going to have to turn around and forget what they have learned. The only way to enter the kingdom, much less be greatest, is to forget your religious upbringing. Think about that for a minute. I am not just pulling this out of my hat. I am basing it on what Jesus taught, and how things were in the first century. All of his disciples had been to Torah school. They currently may be fishermen now, but when they were young they went to Torah school just like this little one. But there is more in the story....

This little person also believed in Jesus. That is, he believed Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus also knew that there was a chance that as the little one grew up and learned in Torah school that he could be persuaded not to believe in Jesus any longer. The scribes and Pharisees, men similar to this little ones teachers, used the Torah to prove that Jesus was not the Messiah (John 7:46-52.) So who is Jesus addressing in the sixth verse of the above Matthew passage? It is anyone who uses the scripture to cause one to stumble, and not believe in the grace and goodness of God. There are tons of preachers who should be concerned about this. They take baby saints, just converted, and use the scripture to beat them over the head to get them to walk the chalk. 

However, this is yet another love letter to the brokenhearted. In fact, the entire scripture has the redemptive purpose of guiding one to a child like faith in Jesus, and the love and grace of the Father. Yet, how many times have you seen someone use this passage to beat people up. Jesus was simply telling his disciples that the only way that they will experience the true kingdom of heaven, which is also the kingdom of God is by faith. Faith in a loving Father that was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself not counting trespasses. One that had made Christ who knew no sin to be made sin so that those believing could be the righteousness of God in and through Him.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Love letter to the brokenhearted: Part 2

Matthew 11:28-30 HCSB "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. (30) For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

This is a second post in the series, Love Letter to the Brokenhearted. I will post a link at the bottom to the first one in case you have not yet read it. 

If you are happy with your continual striving to please God this is not for you. But if you continually try to please God only to find that you are never certain you do, and are stressed out wondering if you are truly on the correct path then read on. It saddens me to see all the people who are striving to the point of being completely burned out to be obedient, to be a good saint, to help the church cause, to give enough, to win the favor of leadership, and on and on. This is not new. There were many in the first century in Jesus time that were under the same pressure. That is why Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 11:28-30. There were then, and are now, a multitude of folks that were weary and burdened. If you are like a rat or mouse on a wheel, chasing you're not sure what. Get off!

The yoke of a disciple is easy and the burden is light. Too many leaders keep people on a treadmill, and dangle in front of them a carrot on a stick. You will be blessed if you do this. Your work will be rewarded and on and on. All the while, the leaders are not doing what they are supposed to do. What are they supposed to do you ask? They are supposed to be proclaiming the gospel, (God's Good News.) Instead, they ignorantly continue to try to keep you from sinning. They focus on sin. They focus on works. They focus on disobedience. They focus on God's wrath. They focus on what you must do to be in right standing with the Father. THEY SELDOM FOCUS ON THE GOOD NEWS!

Yet Jesus is saying come unto me and I will give you rest. Rest from what? Rest from striving. Rest from fear of the Father. Rest from a sense of failure. Rest from worry. This is why Paul spoke these words to the Corinthian saints. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses to them, and instead made the one who knew no sin to be made sin for the sinner, that the sinner might become the righteousness of God.... How so, by God's declaration!

There is so much misunderstanding about preaching. There is so much misunderstanding about the calling and mission of a preacher. The New Testament forcefully states that they should only preach the gospel. Preaching is not yelling at people. We have a connotation today of the word preach to be scolding. When the New Testament says go into the world and preach, it means proclaim. Shout it from the rooftops. Proclaim what? PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL! It is the ministry of reconciliation. The reconciliation is complete. Paul says tell people they HAVE BEEN RECONCILED to God. That is part of God's love letter to humanity. It is not presented often enough. Sure those who have ignorantly preached a different gospel, or something different then the gospel will be judged for that. One day they will give account, and realize their error, however that does not help the multitudes who have been brow beaten, and wearied, and burdened.

Just rest! You have been reconciled to God! Demand that your leaders dwell on the truth and proclaim the gospel. I guarantee that if they truly proclaim the good news that people will work and not be weary. They will strive out of love and not be burdened. They will run to assembling to hear the good news, and the Holy Spirit will use the good news to transform saints into the image of Christ.

If you are weary and burdened, it is not Christ that has caused it. It is men. REST!

Monday, August 28, 2017

A love letter to the brokenhearted: Part 1

Isaiah 61:1 HCSB The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners;

This blog is going to begin a new series, and take the blog in a new direction. In the past, I have ministered to those who think they know God's will, think they have correct doctrine but are sadly on the wrong path. My heart breaks for the state of religion and the church. Too many people are too religious, and too busy trying to establish their own righteousness to really apprehend and benefit from the love of God.

However! If you are brokenhearted, tired of the struggle to perform, feel as though you have been a failure, this blog is shifting to be a beacon of light and love for you. Yes, there are those out there that will read this blog post, realize that they are unsatisfied in their spiritual life and desperate for an answer. If this is you down deep inside, be encouraged. The gospel was NEVER meant to provide a self help solution to your moral dilemma. The gospel was meant to provide a bridge over the gap you feel in the separation between you and the creator of the universe that loves you so much that you cannot even comprehend it!

I'm reminded of the beatitudes. Jesus said blessed are the poor in spirit. The Greek word that is translated poor is POCHOS... it means destitute, beyond hope. The reason that Jesus said the poor in spirit was blessed was because they were the substance of the kingdom of heaven. Yes my friend. If poor in spirit, destitute in spirit describes you way down deep in the recesses of your deepest most secret self, then indeed you are the stuff the kingdom of heaven is made of.

The verse from Isaiah that I have quoted at the top of this post is Jesus' mission statement. He said so when he quoted it in a synagogue in Luke chapter 4. The really good news is that He wants to heal your broken heart, no matter what your current situation is. Throw away the demands that the religionists have saddled you with and concentrate on the love of the Father demonstrated in the earthly mission of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are brokenhearted because you can't seem to measure up to religious standards that have been foisted on you by ignorant people who are without understanding when it comes to the real gospel and the true message of Jesus. You need to just simply believe. Now belief is not just a mental assent to an idea. Belief is an apprehension of the depth of the love of God. If you are having a hard time believing what I am writing here, just go back through the many blog posts where I have shown over and over in a multitude of ways why those who put the focus on religion are wrong. I have article after article of chapter and verses that prove how wrong the religious are. But I suggest that you simply listen to the words of the Apostle Paul that I am going to quote below.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 HCSB (17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. (18) Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (19) That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. (20) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God." (21) He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Read that over and over and over until you understand exactly what it is saying to you. No matter what you see, feel, or hear, if you have turned to Christ,  YOU ARE a new creature! Think about the ramifications of the following... God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, NOT COUNTING THEIR TRESPASSES AGAINST THEM! Further, read that He made Jesus, the one who did not even know sin to be made sin for us.... why, so that we could in-turn be the righteousness of God in Him.

It is simple... YOU ARE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD!.  Believe it, apprehend it with every fiber of your being, rest in it and BE ENCOURAGED! More to come in this vain so stay tuned.....

John 15 Commentary: The result of an ignorant status update I saw in my Facebook Feed.

I am amazed at the biblical ignorance that is out in cyber space. Earlier today, I was reading my Facebook feed, and ran across a status tha...